Sorry For The Lack Of Updates

I know it’s been over a month since I have posted to the site.  But as a trial lawyer, I’ve been busy actually getting ready for trials.  You might think that’s normal, except it’s not.  I recently read a study that most lawyers who call themselves litigators have not had more than one jury trial.  That’s ridiculous.

We are fairly regular at having trials, but  for the last six weeks, I have had three trial settings set in a six week period.  That’s overwhelming and has prevented me from doing things like posting to the site.  Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues, two of the three have been moved and will likely be tried later, but we had to do all of the work to prepare just in case we went forward.

Posted on: May 8, 2015 |

Brain Injury Symptoms: Balance, Dizziness, Smelling, Hearing & Sight

The human brainAs I repeatedly tell clients, brain injuries often go undiagnosed following car wrecks or other accidents because doctors don’t usually know you well enough to make a pre-injury and post-injury comparison of your intelligence, emotional well-being, and general personality.  As a result, it’s often up to you or your family members to notice the symptoms of a brain injury and convey those to medical providers so you get the best care possible.  But to do that, you need to know the symptoms of brain injuries.  This series is designed to help you do that.

These are the final common symptoms on my list.  They seem unrelated, but they’re all related to a change in the senses.

Balance & Dizziness Issues.  Unfortunately, many  of you may experience balance or dizziness issues following your brain injury.  These are very common symptoms of brain injuries and sometimes they can be severe.  Some with brain injuries can feel the immediate problems, but tests can help make the diagnoses.  (With my son’s concussion, he appeared healed and ready to return to baseball until his medical provider ran balance tests on him, which revealed he was still experiencing significant problems despite seeming normal.)  For persons with severe cases of balance and dizziness issues, the person can undergo vestibular therapy that can help fight these symptoms.

Smelling & Tasting.  Oddly enough, many victims of brain injuries experience problems with their sense of smell and taste.  These can run the gamut from completely losing the ability to smell or taste, to a decreased ability to do both, to always experiencing a foul or unpleasant taste or smell.  Unfortunately, there is little that can be done in many of these cases.

Hearing.  Some studies suggest that between 48 and 74% of all people who sustain head trauma will have some type of hearing loss.  These losses could be caused by actual damage to the hearing system (ear canal, etc.) to neurologic problems that are a result of damage to the brain itself.  The treatment options obviously change based on the type and severity of the injury sustained.

Vision.  Recent studies at some VA hospitals have found that more than 74% of the patients with brain injuries had vision problems.  There can be a number of different causes of vision problems.  There can also be a number of different treatment options ranging from waiting, to patching one of your eyes, to vision therapy, to surgery.

VA Misses Mark In Brain Injury Research

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of helping a number of clients who have suffered from brain injuries.  And as I’ve written before, I hoped that one small benefit of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was that the Veterans Administration and others would use the opportunity to conduct meaningful research on brain injuries that could help both our military and the rest of society.

Unfortunately, I might have had my hopes too high.  Over the weekend, the Austin American Statesman ran a wonderful project by Jeremy Schwartz that outlined many of the problems facing researchers who tried to launch an expensive brain injury research program in Waco.

If you’re interested at all in brain injuries and brain injury research, I urge you to spend some time with the resources at the project.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in brain injuries, I think the project is still a good example of what journalism could be.  In addition to his written articles, which also appeared in the paper, the project includes video stories and links to the actual documents used to substantiate the article.  It is extremely well done.

Car Wrecks: Avoiding Road Rage

My favorite example of Dallas traffic happened several years ago during Texas/OU weekend.  We were in college, driving on I35 (no doubt with the radio blaring), and I saw a driver four lanes over start screaming because he thought someone cut him off.  But he was screaming so loud that we could hear him, through four lanes of traffic, and over our radio.

Thankfully, few of us are that bad, but I’m sure we all get annoyed a bit when driving.  And that’s dangerous for us and all those around us.

Recently, I received an email from AAA that had some tips for avoiding road rage, and I thought I’d share them here.  They are as follows:

  • Cutting people off. When you merge into traffic, use your turn signal and make sure you have plenty of room to enter traffic without cutting someone off. If you accidentally do cut someone off, try to apologize with an appropriate gesture, such as a hand wave. If someone cuts you off, take the high road: Slow down and give them plenty of room.
  • Driving slowly in the left lane. Even if you’re driving the speed limit, if you’re in the left lane and someone wants to pass, be courteous; move over and let them pass so you don’t anger drivers behind you. The left lane is actually intended as a passing-only lane. Otherwise, you’re expected to move to the right. You might be familiar with the signs that read: keep right except to pass. Besides, if the car behind you is speeding, it just might receive some unwanted but justified attention from law enforcement. Also, if you notice a long string of cars behind you on a two-lane mountain road, find an appropriate turnout and let them pass.
  • Tailgating. Drivers can really get angry when another car follows them too closely, so allow adequate room between you and the car in front of you. Follow the two-second rule: when the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, it should take you at least two seconds to reach the same point. If you’re being tailgated, put on your turn signal and pull over to allow the vehicle to pass.
  • Making obscene or provocative gestures. Never flip off another driver. Almost nothing makes other drivers angrier than an obscene gesture. Even shaking your head may anger some drivers. So be cautious and courteous—signal every time you merge or change lanes, as well as when you turn.

Most of this is common sense, but it’s always good to get a little reminder to help us keep our cool while driving.


Posted on: September 5, 2014 | Tagged

Personal Injury Claims: What If My Medical Bills Exceed The Policy Limit

I received this question from a potential client the other day.

Whether you have a car wreck, on-the-job injury, slip and fall, or any other personal injury claim, your claim will usually be paid by an insurance company.  Unless you have a claim against a large commercial business (think Walmart), then you’re only going to be able to recover from the defendant’s insurance policy.Unfortunately, insurance policies don’t pay unlimited amounts.  Policies come with a “policy limits”, the maximum amount that the insurance company will be liable for in any claim.   Except in rare circumstances, that limit is the most the insurance company will ever be required to pay, no matter how bad you’re hurt.  (For a more detailed article on policy limits, click here.)

In some circumstances, a client’s medical expenses can exceed the policy limits.  What do you do then?

Generally, there are two potential courses of action.  First, if you health insurance, then health insurance will pay most of your medical expenses.  Unfortunately, you typically have to reimburse your health insurance company for the amounts that it has paid.  When these medical expenses exceed the policy limits, we will typically negotiate the amount you have to pay back to the insurance company so that we can minimize that amount and put as much money as possible back in your pocket.

Alternatively, if you don’t have health insurance, then those bills are likely still outstanding.  In that case, we’ll negotiate directly with the medical providers.  We can usually work something out.  In these cases, the medical providers usually know, especially when the bills are high, that people don’t have the financial resources to personally pay large healthcare bills.  Thus, they know that the best way to get it is out of a settlement.  So often, we’ll be able to negotiate a resolution where the medical providers are accepting pennies on the dollar.  The medical providers know that something is better than nothing, even if that something isn’t very big.

There are, of course, other ways of solving this problem, but these answers settle most of the problems.

Posted on: September 2, 2014 | Tagged

Amusement Park Safety

roller-coasterEarlier this week, several people were injured in a roller coaster accident at Six Flags in Valencia, California.  Apparently, a tree fell on the track, injuring two people and causing a number of others to be stranded for hours.

That’s tragic.  Amusement park injuries occur more than we think, and they are often severe.

But what caught my eye was the source of the story.  The story I saw was on Yahoo, but ran in the Christian Science Monitor.  Why did it catch my eye?

A lot of people have never heard of the Christian Science Monitor, but it’s an internationally respected newspaper that has won several Pulitzer Prizes and dozens of other awards for outstanding journalism.  When I was in back in high school participating in speech and debate, we used to read many of the articles, and most of the headlines, to prepare ourselves for our various competitions.

The Yahoo story stuck with me because I’ll always remember a competition in the small town of Hondo, Texas, where I quoted an article from the Christian Science Monitor in one of my speeches.  I didn’t do as well as I normally did or expected to do, and I couldn’t figure out why until we received the judges’ sheets after the contest.  And my judge railed on me for citing a right wing propaganda machine during my speech.

I didn’t correct my judge to let him know about his errors.  But I’ve always remembered that story because it’s an important to so many lessons for me.  I’m just sorry a roller coaster accident had to be the reminder.



Posted on: July 9, 2014 | Tagged

Get Ready To File Your Chrysler Ignition Switch Claims

As you probably know, Chrysler admitted earlier this year that just over 2.5 million of its vehicles had defective ignition switches.  The switches were faulted in at least 165 deaths and countless more serious injuries.

In an effort to control litigation costs, Chrysler has set up a claim process that will serve as an alternative to litigation.  If injured as a result of a faulty ignition switch, you may submit a claim, and it will be reviewed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who will make awards that Chrysler has agreed to pay.  The hope is that the process will be expedited and reduce costs.  Under the proposal, your claim must be made between August 1 and December 31 of this year, and Mr. Feinberg has a goal of resolving each claim within 90 to 180 days of filing.

From a claimant’s perspective, the biggest potential advantage appears to be the speed of the filing and resolution.  A typical products liability lawsuit would usually take much longer than the time hoped for in this process.  Additionally, Mr. Feinberg has publicly stated that he doesn’t want to litigate issues relating to whether the claimant’s conduct contributed to the wreck — for example, was the claimant drunk, speeding, etc.  Those types of issues would obviously be huge concerns in a trial.

On the downside, Mr. Feinberg has a lot of experience in evaluating claims and making awards in situations such as this (he handled the Sept. 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and he’s currently doing similar work in the BP oil spill arena), and he has received a fair amount of criticism about his awards in the BP case.

If you don’t want to enter the process, then you can still file a lawsuit.  However, which path to take is a decision that must be made on a case-by-case basis.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck caused by a faulty ignition switch, please call us and we’ll try to help you.

Posted on: July 1, 2014 | Tagged

Sorry For The Lack Of Articles, But…..

EBCampershirtmockI had the pleasure of spending the last week at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island with about 35 members of my son’s scout troop.  It has taken time away from the office and my family, and it’s certainly made things more hectic, but it was worth it.

Over the course of the week, our kids earned over 100 merit badges in activities ranging from oceanography, environmental sciences, and mammal studies, to more traditional badges, such as archery, lifesaving, and wilderness survival.

Our boys could earn these merit  badges here at home, but the long trip also offered our boys a more hands-on experience.  For example, most of the kids explored the marine life in the area through snorkeling or even scuba diving.  The boys also had the opportunity to go salt water fishing from a fishing boat, to watch sea lions frolic, and watch dolphins follow our ferry to and from the island.

The camp’s marine science center was also a top attraction.  There, our boys were able to touch and feed leopard sharks, horn sharks, bat rays and more.  And many of the boys were enamored with the mantis shrimp.  These shrimp can grow up to a foot in length, and they are often difficult to keep in aquariums because they are strong enough to break the glass.  Indeed, the boys were fascinated by the fact that if humans could accelerate their arms at one-tenth the speed at which a mantis shrimp attacks its prey, we’d be able to launch a baseball into orbit.

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

One of the favorite parts of the week was “war canoes”, where we made an hour-plus canoe trip to a secluded beach on the island.  Once there, the kids could go hiking, snorkeling or play on the beach.  The day was capped off with dutch oven dinners, and then we all spent the night on the beach.  Around 4:45 the next morning, we had our wake-up call, we loaded up, and we canoed back to the main camp.

Of course, no boy scout camp would be complete without the opportunity to serve others, and one of our opportunities was a bit unexpected.  As we returned to camp with our fishing charter, we encountered a small boat with three passengers waving feverishly.  As our captain approached the boat, the boaters let us know that they had run out of gas and were stranded.  We radioed to Harbor Patrol, and soon our stranded friends were being towed back in to safety.  The lesson was not lost on our boys as one unnamed scout (okay, it was my son), took the opportunity to suggest to the boaters that they should “Be Prepared” for those types of situations.

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

Needless to say, we were are all tired, but it was a great experience for all of the kids.

Posted on: June 23, 2014 | Tagged

The Vulnerably Housed and Homeless Suffer Increased Risk of TBI

Typically, traumatic brain injury (TBI) coverage focuses on those involved in contact sports and on military veterans. However, TBI also seriously affects vulnerably housed individuals and the homeless.

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation recently featured a study arguing that the homeless who suffer TBI have a strong, negative impact on public expenses. Homeless and unsafely housed individuals who have suffered damaging blows to the head are more likely to frequent ER departments for health care, to fall victim to assaults, to have done jail time and to have been arrested.

The Canadian article argued that traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions, are approximately seven times more common among the homeless. TBIs may manifest themselves in mental health issues, in alcohol or drug abuse and in physical symptoms, including seizures.

The study stretched over four years, and 61 percent of its participants reported having sustained a TBI in survey. The figures were roughly consistent across Canada. Homeless individuals with a history of TBI were 1.5 times more likely to attend an ER due to the long-term side effects of their brain injury.

These individuals were also almost twice as likely to have spent time in jail or to have been arrested by police within the previous year — usually as a result of personality disturbances or impaired mental abilities as a result of a TBI. The homeless with brain injuries were almost three times more likely to be assaulted than other, similarly situated individuals.

Increased screening and condition-management assistance could help control the higher level of health care required for homeless TBI victims. Unfortunately, prospects for this kind of action remain weak in the face of more dominant health care priorities.

Posted on: May 30, 2014 | Tagged

Texas oil workers have a high accident and death rate

Although the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was horrific for platform workers, and those who lost loved ones, riggers on land are at an even greater risk, without much of a support system for them.

According to a recent drilling article in the Houston Chronicle, workers have no one to rely on for their safety or assistance in the event of an accident, not even the federal government. It’s a depressing commentary on the human condition when 60 oil rig workers die, one at a time, and it does not register as a warning flag. This observation came from no less that the former assistant regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

It’s not news that onshore oil fields are virtually the most dangerous places to work. This fact was revealed in 2007, at the beginning of the fracking boom, by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB), who revealed that 40 percent of the 663 riggers killed while working on rigs, died in Texas. 2012 was a bad year, featuring a ten-year high, with 65 deaths, 79 workers who had a limb amputated, 92 who sustained burns, 675 with broken bones and 82 crush deaths. These are grim statistics. Unfortunately, with the increased activity, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale patch, the problem will only get worse.

Furthermore, the CSHIB study showed the federal government has done nothing for 22-years with regard to putting safety procedures and standards in place for onshore gas and oil drilling. These findings did not let the OSHA off the hook for their lackluster rules and regulations pertaining to safety. They are only mandated to launch an investigation relating to accidents that kill a worker or that resulted in three or more employees being sent to hospital. There were 18,000 work-related injuries in the past 6-years, and only 150 were investigated.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but bears mentioning as a reminder of the lack of government involvement relating to safety in the oil industry in Texas, that when the OSHA conducted an investigation, safety infractions and violations were cited in 78 percent of them. It’s not too difficult to suspect that the accidents that were not investigated were also caused by safety violations.

Instead of getting better, it appears safety procedures and standards rank dead last with the government. Hundreds of Texas families would disagree with this approach. Hundreds more workplace accident lawyers also find fault with this hands off attitude.

Posted on: May 20, 2014 | Tagged

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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